hello, i'm james tengan in tokyo, we're coming to you live from our studios here. here are some of the stories we're following this hour. investigating potential corruption. raid on japanese construction companies raises concern. the bidding process for rebuilding roads damaged by the 2011 disaster is under the spotlight. a rough day in the markets,
japan's nikkei share average continues to fall, hitting a fresh 15-month low. and filling the gap. children in low-income families around japan are receiving much needed care packages thanks to a buddhist priest. months after the 2011 disaster, people had high hopes that highway and road reconstruction projects would help return the region to normal. the projects are now complete, but questions are now being raised over how government funds for the projects were given out. nhk world's kurando tago has more. >> reporter: it was a shocking development. prosecutors and officials stormed the offices of four major road construction companies. they were looking for evidence in what they suspect was bid rigging in contracts worth 17.6 billion yen of public funds.
eight other companies are believed to have taken part in the illegal practice. in the fall of 2011, the east nippon expressway company ordered repair work on highways. many of them were in the devastated tohoku region, hit by a 2011 earthquake and tsunami. the company held public tenders for 12 projects funded by the japanese government. sources say, before the process even started, the company received an anonymous tip warning about bid rigging. at the time, the bidders denied any intention to fix prices and pledged in writing they wouldn't do so. but the results of the bid were unnaturally high. the average winning bid was nearly 95% of the allotted budget, higher than the year before. sources say some of the companies have admitted to the allegations. an official with one of them defends their actions in the face of rising costs after the disaster.
>> transtor: material prices have been going up 20% to 30% a month, and the cost of operating trucks have also been going up 50% to 80%. no one wants to do money-losing projects. >> reporter: the atmosphere at the time probably led to that sort of thinking, said an expert in anti-monopoly law. >> translator: companies are expected to do a good job in disaster reconstruction projects which run on a tight schedule. they probably thought it was okay, because they would get the job done for the benefit of the people. it's a bit selfish. >> reporter: selfish might be an understatement for the region's residents,many of whom are still in temporary housing. >> translator: it's not right to drive up bids.
>> translator: it's wrong for only certain people to profit. the companies are not thinking about the people. >> reporter: prosecutors suspect the major four companies started discussing the bids rigging right after funds were approved by the government. but prosecutors haven't said if any arrests will be made. kurando tago, nhk world, tokyo. >> kurando, thanks. a japanese cabinet minister is catching heat over allegations that he failed to report some political donations. akira amari is catching heat over claims he failed to reporter some political donations. he promises to look into the matter.
>> translator: i read the magazine article this morning. i'll thoroughly check the facts and fulfill my responsibility to explain what happened. >> when opposition lawmaker asked if the minister plans to resign, amari said only that a magazine published on thursday said that a magazine offered cash to his office. a source close to the minister says the office received about $8,500 in 2013 and 2014 but may have failed to record it in political funding reports. amari is in charge of the high-profile transpacific partnership free trade framework. he led the japanese delegation when it reached a broad agreement with 11 other countries last october. the auditing committee then switched its focus to constitutional concerns. it asked prime minister shinzo abe about plans to amend the constitution which has stood unchanged for nearly 70 years. >> i think we should amend the
constitution if necessary based on the premise of maintaining basic understanding such as sovereignty of the people, respect for basic human rights and pacifism. >> abe said he will try to win public understanding for a constitution that's more attune to the current situation. a south korean man being held in connection with an explosion at a shrine honoring japan's war dead has been arrested again. police have now charged jeon chang-han with violating japan's explosives control law. they allege he brought metal pipes stuffed with gun powder into a rest room at yasukuni shrine in tokyo and detonated them. a 27-year-old was previously arrested for entering the premises without a legitimate reason. the blast in november caused a small fire. police say the suspect admitted at one point to planting some kind of device. they said he's expressed dissatisfaction with yasukuni
because people convicted of war crimes after world war ii are enshrined there. now, a downward trend is continuing in markets throughout the asia pacific region. let's turn to gene otani for the markets and other business held lionses, gene. >> thanks, james. stocks saw gains early on thursday with a rebound in crude oil prices but the situation soon turned around. the nikkei average eventually closed at the host lowest level in 16 months. for details we go to our business reporter at the stock exchange. my ewe. >> first, we saw gains across the board one analyst said since this rebound was based on bargain hunting after they covered their losses in a downward spiral. nikkei briefly rose % but close 2.4%. i was staring at the monitor here in the last few minutes of trading because the nikkei was
very close to dip below that 16,000 mark. the broader topix gave up all gains to 2.8%. and then closing out to october 2014. at the end of the day, we saw losses on all three subsectors on the broad ebb topix. japan dropped to a three-year low, mcdonald's after reporting that the american fast food giant is planning to sell up to 33% of shares in its japanese unit. another stock i was following was sharp. briefly soared over 5% when the headlines that a japanese electronics maker has offered to take over sharp. bu endhe day up 5.8%. on thsday, the bk o jap goveor sd he'saying tees market but on said mart plars are sort o disapinted becau theyanted to hear rerom
kuroda about the recent markets. >> my ewayu, thanks. the shanghai composite closed at 3.2%. chins bank has pumped about 60 billion ahead of the new year ex next month. but investors seemed to have shrugged off. jirts over the slowing chinese economy ntinue to weigh on sentiment. sydney bucks the trend. s&p/asx 200 rebounded from yesterday's 2 1/2-year low. a rebound in copper prices. seoul's kospi sagged to 2.3%. hong kong's hang seng was drag
down to losses in china. it ended at its lowest level since 2012. global leaders meeting in davos, switzerland, to attend the annual meeting of the world economic forum. one of the main topics is the faltering chinese economy. nhk world joins us live from davos. masa. >> reporter: hi, gene, the status has been marked by global markets from china. wondering what's behind the country's slowdown and how it will perform this year. the world economic forum is echoing these questions on china. one entitled china's, the panelists argued china's real economy has been separated from the financial sector for many years. he said many chinese economies are kept afloat by government
support. he believes those should have withdrawn. but banks failed to take appropriate action. new york university professor mario rubio said that china's growth shouldn't exceed 5%. >> the good news is not the hard landing. the bad news is that the policymakers seem to be not willing to do some of the necessary adjustments. i think the chinese and the policy on the soft market will move gradually to a more transparent set of rules so people can track what they're doing in a credible way. >> okay, we appear to be having
some technical difficulties. we apologize for that. we'll try to get back to masahito as soon as we can. officials from indonesia and china have taken the first step in a major infrastructure project. they've held an event to mark the start on indonesia's first high-speed rail line. government officials gathered for a ground breaking ceremony. representatives from the joint venture company that's in charge also attended. the president said cooperation between indonesia and china will eventually extend to other feels such as manufauring. the chinese state counselor said that will bringhe countries oser tother. the company in charge received its construction permit just one day before the groundbreaking
ceremony. and analysts have raised questions about the firm's ability to finance its share of the cost. china won the contract for the project last year after the bidding process against leaders of japan. leaders in jakarta made the decision mostly because china's proposal did fought require indonesia to contribut funds. vietnam is enjoying annual growth of about 6%. the boom is luring back thousands who left tur the turmoil. vietnam war and its aftermath. these expatriates were once labeled as dissidents. is they have started to trickle back after the government established poses to bring them home. today, their skills are helping the country to develop in the second part of our series, on vietnam, we meet one such returnee. >> reporter: ho chi minh city, this former capital of south vietnam has become a major destination for returnees who
want to invest in business opportunities. it's also becoming a battlefield for companies who want to recruit them. that's because ethnic vietnamese comes from overseas have acquired skills that are much in demand in this emerging economy. this is one of the largest recruitment companies in the country. the asean economic community has been established and the transpacific partnership trade deal is set to go into effect. they've prompted foreign corporations to move into vietnam at breakneck speed. those companies are relying on recruitment firms to find qualified employees. many vietnamese returning from abroad fit the bill. >> they are qualified. they have the language skills. they have management skills. and here there are a lot of business opportunities for them to be more successful,or them to contribute to the homeland. why not? >> reporter: this man is an american-vietnamese who decided
to come to ho chi minh for work in 2014. he's a developer with experience, leading many construction projects in new york. he now works for an international developer that entered the vietnamese market a few years ago. he's in charge of 16 projects. >> in vietnam it is re uncertainty but there's a beauty that i've learned to appreciate in that uncertainty. of course there's opportunity as ll. it's still an emerging market. >> reporter:he vietnam war ended in 1975. ny living in southietnam wereorced tolee. mass migtion connued for several ars. ken and his family defected in 1978. he was 3 years old when his parents brought him to a boat in out of the country. they found a new home in the united states. he grew up as a typical american kid and didn't really think of
his origins until he reached his 30s. the rapid development of vietnam made him think of its business possibilities. >> honestly, i can wake up tomorrow and open up any company i want and do whatever i want to do here. of course you need to put hard work into it to be successful. >> reporter: at the developer he now works for, he introduced the idea of sharing progress updates on all projects. in vietnam, construction projects fall behind deadlines or go over budget. ken is helping to keep things under control. this year his team is arting pore than ten new projects. >> i can learn from him about the logic. his logic is very good. and also, i think a lot of skill i study from him. >> five to ten years from now, my hope is that vietnam will be a leader in the asia pacific area. we will be able to compete with korea and japan and hopefully china. and make our mark globally.
>> reporter: to further propel its economic growth, the government is making it easier for vietnamese to come from overseas and work in the country. >> translator: this is a good time to return home. they can come and live in their home country if they want to. and use their ability and knowledge to contribute to the country's development. >> reporter: vietnam is opening its market as it tries to maintain economic growth. it will be important to learn how to play the game on a global scale, and that new generation of returnees is joining the team. yuko fukushima, nhk world. here's a look at some of the other business stories we're following. the new zealand government has announced that a signing ceremony will be held in auckland on february 4th.
ministers from 12 countries including japan and the u.s. reached an agreement on it in october after 5 1/2 years of negotiations. >> japanes automar se is hoping t capture a slice of the market for hybrid cars. they've designed a new model in a bid to take on the get tickets. suzuki officials say the compact sport utility vehicle, the ignis has a 1.2 liter gasoline engine and electric mortar. they say it can get 29 kilometers per liter. that's it for business news. i'll leave you with the markets.
"newsline" comes to you live from our studios here in tokyo. we now have a story about how one buddhist priest is turning to a form of recycling to help families in need. >> reporter: theodore is the chief priest in the prefect tour. he funded a club called snack club. many of them single-parent families. it was inspired by a tragic incident. the bodies of a mother and her child were discovered. they had starved to death. in the atsuhima said the news
left him speechless. >> translator: our temple receives plenty of offerings. i decided to pass on the food that people bring us to people and their mothers. >> reporter: temple snack cl is notust about providi food but reaching out to people. mastushima has encouraged temples to participate. children look forward to the sweets and fruit the priests provide. notes like thieach matsushima from around the nation. this one from a mother who said she was able to fill her children's stomachs. >> translator: the mother, when she receives the package may smile and breathe a sigh of relief. and her children may see her face and they may smile as well. i feel good knowing we can
deliver such feelings. >> reporter: on this day, he visits the perfect tour of those living on or below the poverty line. companies donate food to the council. but few send the sort of snacks thatoung children love the most. >> translator: snacks and food are rather low priority, it seems. >>. >> translator: i have to admit providing kids snacks is a bit beyond us. it's great you can support us in this area. >> reporter: he arranges to deliver food to the council so he can personally hand it to recipients. >> translator: the involvement of temple shows people that welfare isn't just a job for social security. by involving more people like
this, we can find new solutions. ♪ >> reporter: more japanese families are struggling amid the economic downturn. he hopes his group can help ease not just hunger but social isolation. u.s. scientists say 2015 was the hottest year on record, and they say temperatures will keep rising. and we are handing to future generations a warmed world and a warming world. you know, we are going to have to work to deal with the consequences of those changes. >> the scientific agency noaa and the space agency nasa analyzed the data. they say the average global temperature last year was 14.8 degrees celsius.
that's the highest since the records were first kept in 1880. temperatures were highest in regions setting records in the pacific answer indian ohs. researchers say the cause is not just global warming. they as point to a higher than average surface temperatures near the equator and east pacific. they say that's happening on a warm scale. they say temperatures will keep rising all over the world. and that is making people here in japan anxious to what el nino has in store them. jonathan oh has the update start with the u.s. well, we are looking at a pretty serious winter storm situation as we move forward in time. we're keeping a close eye over a low-pressure system coming out of the plainsith cold air in place it's going to be a real mess. already creating a mess from another system moving through the eastern portion of the united states. let me start you over in
louisville, kentucky, or near that area, where a tractor trailer overturned on the roadways because of the icy roads or freezing temperatures. and then they're shutting down this major road. and they're also having several co school closures on wednesday. winter weather advisories all in place. and through evansville, we are seeing reports of to close to 8 1/2 inches of snow. that's a daily snowfall record for that particular location on wednesday. now, we have another system that's coming into the picture and this low is really going to take. we do have a little bit of a mess ahead of this. first, severe thunderstorms expected down in the bayou of louisiana and portions of mississippi. but here's what we have to look out for on thursday. aside from the fact that we have
the snowy conditions there expected right down into places of north carolina, west virginia, portions of kentucky, we're looking at the possibility of freezing rain. that's just going to make the roads that much more slippery and that much more problematic. and then we go into blizzard conditions in washington, d.c., baltimore, and snowfall in places like new york city and boston and points to the north and west. so, we have to keep an eye on this. and the freing rai continuing to hag around for friday. so boulevard watch in place friday and saturday for washington, d.c. heavy snow in the mid-atlantic and strong winds. look at this in terms of the forecast. thursday, dry. except for new orleans, you're looking at thunderstorms. by friday that snow really kicks in and maybe giving you very windy conditions as we go into saturday. now, talking about snow, we're looking at the forecast for
japan. look at some of these snowfall totals that we've seen. in hokkaido, 270 centimeters of snow fell over a period of three days. quite a bit over other portions of japan as well. 70 to 80 centimeters of snowfall. we're looking for it to continue as the cold air runs over the warmth the japan. more snow to talk about. and also talking about temperatures to stay quite cold for sapporo. tokyo, you're looking at snowfall as well. look at this, okinawa, temperatures dropping into the low teens by sunday. it's cold. another area that's cold right now, over in portions of europe, towards turk. finitely wter time with snow in some portions of northwestern portion of the country with 176 centimeters. more snow in place for thursday as the the low-pressure system moves over into turkey. another system, totally